Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

And now we arrive at the big one in my early Oscar predictions for this 2021 season: Best Picture. If you missed my previous posts covering Best Director and the acting derbies, they can accessed here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/07/22/early-2021-oscar-predictions-best-director/

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

In the highly fluent and unpredictable field that encompassed 2020, there were 8 eventual nominees for Picture. As you may recall, for the past 12 ceremonies, the BP contenders can fluctuate anywhere from 5-10 titles (the magic number has been 8 or 9). Starting with 2021, the number is set at 10 (thank you Academy).

Last year, my earliest predictions for this race yielded 3 of the 8 hopefuls – winner Nomadland, Mank, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Three others (The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari) were mentioned as Other Possibilities. Two (Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal) were not initially mentioned at all.

So let’s get to it! Here are my first picks for the 10 nominees with 15 Other Possibilities.

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST PICTURE

Belfast

Dune

A Hero

House of Gucci

Mass

Nightmare Alley

The Power of the Dog

Soggy Bottom

The Tragedy of Macbeth

West Side Story

Other Possibilities:

Annette

Blue Bayou

Canterbury Glass

C’Mon C’Mon

CODA

Cyrano

Don’t Look Up

Flee

The French Dispatch

The Humans

In the Heights

Last Night in Soho

Next Goals Wins

Parallel Mothers

Spencer

Beginning late this week, I will kick off my weekly predictions in these six biggest derbies (as well as both Screenplay races) where the contenders will be ranked. Stay tuned!

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Director

The blog’s early look at the 2021 Oscar contenders arrives at Best Director. If you didn’t see the posts outlining my initial picks for the acting derbies, take a look here:

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Early 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

In 2020, my first estimates in the directorial field yielded 2 eventual nominees: winner Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and David Fincher (Mank). The three others were not even mentioned: Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), and surprise contender Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round).

Here’s the players as I see it at this July juncture:

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST DIRECTOR

Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley

Asghar Farhadi, A Hero

Denis Villeneuve, Dune

Other Contenders:

Pedro Almodovar, Parallel Mothers

Paul Thomas Anderson, Soggy Bottom

Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch

Kenneth Branagh, Belfast

Leos Carax, Annette

Fran Kranz, Mass

Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up

David O. Russell, Canterbury Glass

Ridley Scott, House of Gucci

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

That leaves only Best Picture and it will be posted in short order!

Oscar Watch – Space Jam: A New Legacy

Lebron James will not become the first NBA superstar to score a Best Actor nomination and no, his former teammates Shaquille O’Neal (Kazaam) and Kyrie Irving (Uncle Drew) didn’t do so. #23 headlines the long in development sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy this Friday and reviews only have the live-action/animated mix at 42% on Rotten Tomatoes.

There is, however, one category where Oscar attention is at least feasible and that is Visual Effects. Even some of the negative critical posts mention the solid special effects. The original Jam 25 years ago couldn’t manage to get in the VFX derby. Back then, there were only three nominees and 1996’s winner was Independence Day over Dragonheart and Twister.

Could the expansion to five give LeBron’s iteration a shot? Doubtful. Warner Bros. already has three stronger hopefuls with Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune, and the fourth Matrix and it’s questionable whether much of a campaign would be done here.

Bottom line: Legacy could make the shortlist of possibilities for inclusion at the end of 2021. I would be surprised if it makes the starting lineup. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch was supposed to premiere at Cannes in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic altered that plan. One year later, the auteur’s latest has screened in the French Riviera and it’s probably the most eagerly awaited debut of the festival. The film boasts an ensemble that is to be expected from the filmmaker and it reads like a who’s who of his frequent collaborators and several other previous awards nominees: Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Timothee Chalamet, Frances McDormand, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Elisabeth Moss, Liev Schrieber, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Christoph Waltz, Jason Schwartzman (who shares a story credit with Anderson and others), Bob Balaban, and Anjelica Huston. Yeah, I know.

Early reviews indicate that this anthology (out stateside on October 22) is a loving ode to journalism and that could be right up the alley of Academy voters. Yet some buzz is also indicating this isn’t among his strongest efforts. One thing seems certain: Dispatch is a visual feast that should easily assert itself in several technical categories. That certainly includes Production Design, Costume Design, Alexandre Desplat’s Original Score, Cinematography, and perhaps Makeup and Hairstyling (though that race in particular could be packed this year).

What do all those races have in common? They were all nominations received for Anderson’s 2014 pic The Grand Budapest Hotel, which scored nine mentions (winning for Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Score, and Production Design). Don’t be surprised if this is a major hopeful in those same categories.

As for the massive amount of actors, here’s a fun fact: no performance from an Anderson production has ever been nominated. That seems hard to believe, but his casts often make it tricky to pick a favorite or two to mount a campaign for. Del Toro, Chalamet, Wright, and McDormand have been singled out in some write-ups already. I suspect none will emerge to make the Oscar cut. Chalamet has hope in lead actor for Dune and the same can be said for McDormand with The Tragedy of Macbeth (time will tell).

Now to the biggest derbies. Will The French Dispatch manage Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay nods? The latter seems most possible. And while some European chatter indicates the other two could be out of reach, it’s important to remember that it took a little time for Budapest Hotel to become the Academy player that it turned out to be.

Bottom line: the future is cloudy for Dispatch when it comes to the most high-profile competitions. Some Academy love down the line in the tech races already seems highly likely. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Tomorrow War

Chris Pratt is no stranger to his pictures getting nominated in the Visual Effects race at the Oscars. However, this is limited to his participation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe via Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel and Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Neither Jurassic World or its sequel made the VE cut.

Mr. Pratt headlines another sci-fi spectacle with The Tomorrow War, debuting on Amazon Prime today. Budgeted in the $200 million range, the pic comes from Chris McKay (making his live-action directorial debut after helming The Lego Batman Movie). Costars include Yvonne Strahovski, Betty Gilpin, and J.K. Simmons. Originally slated for a December 2020 theatrical release, Tomorrow was relegated to streaming due to its COVID delay. It’s now out on Independence Day weekend and some critics have compared it to the 1996 summer blockbuster that shares its name with the holiday.

When it comes to awards attention, Visual Effects is the only possibility here. Reviews are middling as it currently sits at 55% on Rotten Tomatoes. The VE branch can be an unpredictable one (remember that Love and Monsters nod last year?). That said, my hunch is that Tomorrow will be ignored by voters months down the line. The competition should be steep (more so than last year) with Dune, Eternals, Top Gun: Maverick, and others.

Bottom line: expect the MCU to still be Pratt’s filmography represented when it comes to souped up special effects.

Oscar Watch: Black Widow

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, unless the film is named Black Panther, your best hope is to contend in Visual Effects at the Oscars and probably lose. This brings us to Black Widow, the 24th entry in the MCU that opens July 9th in theaters and on Disney Plus streaming. The stand-alone pic focused on Scarlett Johansson’s title character had its review embargo lifted today and results are mostly positive thus far. The Rotten Tomatoes score currently stands at 86%.

Johansson’s costars (Florence Pugh particularly) are getting the bulk of critical kudos. That said, no actor in an MCU flick has made the cut in those categories and it won’t start here. 10 of the previous 23 franchise blockbusters (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame) have landed slots in Visual Effects. As far as victories go – they are 0 for 10. In fact, only Panther (which nabbed a Best Picture nod) has won anything. It went 3 for 7 on Oscar night 2019 by taking Original Score, Costume Design, and Production Design.

Just over half of Marvel’s creations have received zero recognition from the Academy. Black Widow should face an uphill battle in Visual Effects. Late year arrivals like Dune and Top Gun: Maverick are just two possibilities outside of this cinematic universe. Then there’s the matter of 3 more hopeful MCU titles: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and (perhaps especially) Eternals. Bottom line: there’s a better chance of Black Widow not showing up anywhere at next year’s ceremony. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Is In the Heights Out of Oscar Contention?

Ten days ago, Jon M. Chu’s In the Heights went into its premiere weekend as the first bonafide Best Picture contender of 2021. Sporting a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96%, the musical (adapted from a play co-created by Lin-Manuel Miranda) was projected to gross around $20 million in its opening frame. And then reality happened.

The pic was a major box office disappointment and earned just $11.5 million out of the gate (landing at #2 behind the third weekend of A Quiet Place Part II). Even then not all hope was lost. With solid word-of-mouth and awards buzz, perhaps Heights would hold well in subsequent weekends.

And then reality happened again. Heights appears to have dropped to sixth place in its sophomore outing with a drop of over 60%. What a difference a week and a half can make. There’s really no positive spin for its box office performance. It’s simply very underwhelming. Furthermore, the bulk of publicity received for Heights in recent days was either for its disappointing numbers or controversy emerging from its casting choices (something for which Miranda issued an apology for).

At this juncture, it’s a legitimate question whether Heights is still a viable contender at the Oscars. Much of that could depend on if Warner Bros makes a robust effort to campaign for it. I would say its inclusion in the big categories is now iffy at best. This applies to Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Anthony Ramos in Actor (which was probably always a long shot), and Olga Merediz in Supporting Actress. Down the line categories such as Sound and Original Song are more questionable as well.

The studio could shift its focus to fall contenders including Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark, and King Richard with Will Smith. Bottom line: Heights isn’t finished in the Oscar derby, but it is hard to say that it’s not wounded.

Oscar Watch: A Quiet Place Part II

Fourteen months after its scheduled release, A Quiet Place Part II looks to make noise at the box office when it debuts over Memorial weekend. John Krasinski’s horror sequel starring wife Emily Blunt was days away from release before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. The 2018 original was critically hailed and generated some Oscar buzz. However, it managed only a nod in Sound Editing (this was before Sound Editing and Sound Mixing were combined into one category). It lost to Bohemian Rhapsody. 

The review embargo lifted today. The general consensus is that AQPII nearly matches the quality of its predecessor, but not quite. This is evident in the Rotten Tomatoes score. Part I reached 96%. Part II sits at 90%. The chances of a Best Picture nomination seemed rather unrealistic anyway. This does not hold true for Best Sound where it could make a play. There is bound to be serious competition in the form of musicals like In the Heights and West Side Story and spectacles such as Dune and Top Gun: Maverick. 

Marco Beltrami’s score is getting some kudos (his work in the original received a Globe nod), but that could be a long shot as well. There is another higher profile race to mention. Millicent Simmonds, reprising her role as Blunt’s daughter, is being singled out. The deaf actress received raves for Part I and critics are saying her work here is a highlight. A Best Supporting Actress is not impossible, but there’s a major caveat.

It seems like an actress in a horror flick has been hyped up every year in recent times. This includes Toni Collette in Hereditary, Lupita Nyong’o for Us, and Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man. Yet the Academy seems to never take the bait. It is worth noting that Blunt won Supporting Actress at SAG for the original and then didn’t get in at the Oscars. Simmonds probably won’t make final cut though it’ll be worth monitoring the strength of this category in the months ahead.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Army of the Dead

Zack Snyder’s zombie tale Army of the Dead hits hundreds of screens this weekend before its Netflix streaming premiere on May 21. Reviews are out and several indicate it’s a winner (especially the opening scene which is drawing raves). The Rotten Tomatoes score currently sits at 76%.

If an Oscar Watch post for this particular genre seems strange, I get it. I’m not talking about a Best Picture nod or lead actor recognition for Dave Bautista. However, some critics are pointing out Army‘s visuals. Just last year, the Netflix monster pic Love and Monsters scored a surprise nomination in Visual Effects.

Here’s the caveat: several contenders in the race from 2020 were pushed back to 2021. In other words, VE should be more of a crowded field this time around. That includes potential heavy hitters like Dune, Eternals, the fourth Matrix, Top Gun: Maverick, The Suicide Squad, and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Having said that, if Netflix launches a serious campaign, Army could march to the shortlist in this specific category and a nod is not out of the question.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2020 FINAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS

Well… here we are. After about seven months of (mostly) weekly predictions and trying to put the puzzle piece together that is the 2020 Oscar season, my final predictions have arrived. The Academy’s picks will be revealed on Monday morning in a crazy year that includes selections from January and February of 2021. This is the last year where there can be anywhere from 5-10 Best Picture nominees. Next year that shifts to a fixed 10 (thank goodness). I’m sticking with nine since that’s been the average number, but who knows what’ll happen?

In this wild COVID time frame, it’s something to look back at my initial predictions back in August. How many nominations will Dune and The French Dispatch receive? Will Jennifer Hudson nab her second nod for Respect? Can Joaquin Phoenix make it back to back with C’Mon C’Mon? How will West Side Story do? Of course, all of those titles and more have been pushed back to the next Oscar season in a schedule that was ever shifting.

We are left with plenty of serious contenders and some races (the Supporting Acting ones come to mind) that seem especially tricky to project this time around. For each race, I’m revealing my predicted nominees as well as my first and second runners-up. On Monday, I’ll have my reaction to the nominees and how I did. One thing is likely: there will be surprises and snubs. There always are.

Yet after this topsy-turvy Oscar season and thousands of words dedicated to piecing the puzzle together, here’s where I have landed!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

Judas and the Black Messiah

Mank

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Minari

Nomadland

One Night in Miami

Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

1st Runner-Up: The Father

2nd Runner-Up: News of the World 

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

David Fincher, Mank

Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

1st Runner-Up: Regina King, One Night in Miami

2nd Runner-Up: Florian Zeller, The Father

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman

Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

1st Runner-Up: Rosamund Pike, I Care a Lot

2nd Runner-Up: Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Gary Oldman, Mank

Steven Yeun, Minari

1st Runner-Up: Tahar Rahim, The Mauritanian

2nd Runner-Up: Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

Olivia Colman, The Father

Jodie Foster, The Mauritanian

Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

1st Runner-Up: Amanda Seyfried, Mank

2nd Runner-Up: Helena Zengel, News of the World

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Leslie Odom, Jr., One Night in Miami

Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

David Strathairn, Nomadland

1st Runner-Up: Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods

2nd Runner-Up: Alan Kim, Minari

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

Judas and the Black Messiah

Mank

Minari

Promising Young Woman

The Trial of the Chicago 7

1st Runner-Up: Sound of Metal

2nd Runner-Up: Soul

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

The Father

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

The Mauritanian

Nomadland

One Night in Miami

1st Runner-Up: News of the World

2nd Runner-Up: The White Tiger

Best Animated Feature

Predicted Nominees:

The Croods: A New Age

Onward

Over the Moon

Soul

Wolfwalkers

1st Runner-Up: The Willoughbys

2nd Runner-Up: Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Best Documentary Feature

Predicted Nominees:

Collective

Dick Johnson Is Dead

My Octopus Teacher

Time

Welcome to Chechnya

1st Runner-Up: All In: The Fight for Democracy

2nd Runner-Up: Boys State

Best International Feature Film

Predicted Nominees:

Another Round

Dear Comrades!

La Llorona

Quo Vadis, Aida?

Two of Us

1st Runner-Up: Collective

2nd Runner-Up: Night of the Kings

Best Cinematography

Predicted Nominees:

Mank

Minari

News of the World

Nomadland

The Trial of the Chicago 7

1st Runner-Up: Judas and the Black Messiah

2nd Runner-Up: Cherry

Best Costume Design

Predicted Nominees:

Ammonite

Emma

Mank

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Mulan

1st Runner-Up: News of the World

2nd Runner-Up: The Personal History of David Copperfield

Best Film Editing

Predicted Nominees:

Minari

Nomadland

Promising Young Woman

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

1st Runner-Up: Mank

2nd Runner-Up: The Father

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Predicted Nominees:

Birds of Prey

Emma

Hillbilly Elegy

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Pinocchio

1st Runner-Up: Mank

2nd Runner-Up: The Glorias

Best Original Score

Predicted Nominees:

Mank

The Midnight Sky

Minari

News of the World

Soul

1st Runner-Up: Tenet

2nd Runner-Up: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Original Song

Predicted Nominees:

“Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah

“Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7

“lo Si” from The Life Ahead

“Speak Now” from One Night in Miami

“Turntables” from All In: The Fight for Democracy

1st Runner-Up: “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

2nd Runner-Up: “Rain Song” from Minari

Best Production Design

Predicted Nominees:

Mank

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

The Midnight Sky

News of the World

The Trial of the Chicago 7

1st Runner-Up: Mulan

2nd Runner-Up: Tenet

Best Sound

Predicted Nominees:

Greyhound

Mank

News of the World

Soul

Sound of Metal

1st Runner-Up: Nomadland

2nd Runner-Up: Tenet

Best Visual Effects

Predicted Nominees:

Mank

The Midnight Sky

Mulan

Tenet

Welcome to Chechnya

1st Runner-Up: The One and Only Ivan

2nd Runner-Up: Soul 

And this equates to a final tally showing these movies getting these numbers in terms of nominations:

10 Nominations

Mank

8 Nominations

Minari, The Trial of the Chicago 7

7 Nominations

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Nomadland

5 Nominations

Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal

4 Nominations

Judas and the Black Messiah, News of the World, One Night in Miami

3 Nominations

The Father, The Midnight Sky, Soul

2 Nominations

Emma, Hillbilly Elegy, The Mauritanian, Mulan, Welcome to Chechnya

1 Nomination

All In: The Fight for Democracy, Ammonite, Another Round, Birds of Prey, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Collective, The Croods: A New Age, Dear Comrades!, Dick Johnson Is Dead, Greyhound, La Llorona, The Life Ahead, My Octopus Teacher, Onward, Over the Moon, Pieces of a Woman, Pinocchio, Quo Vadis, Aida?, Tenet, Time, Two of Us, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Wolfwalkers

Be sure to check back Monday for my thoughts on what transpires on nomination morning!